True war veterans will not celebrate this day

Looking closer at him, one could clearly see the inscriptions of pain on his body. Scars from bullet wounds and thorns all over his body are a poignant reminder of tough times during the liberation struggle.

Bangira at his bicycle repair workshop.
Bangira at his bicycle repair workshop.

Kenneth Bangira (59) is an undoubted war veteran and a man of the struggle. The resettled farmer in Odzi, who benefited from the controversial land “reform” programme, does not talk about how many people he shot at, or how many people he saw being killed in the seventies. He talks about human frailty; of trying to catch bullets in their hands as they whistled past their heads.

Old bicycle

34 years after gaining the independence that he fought for, Bangira is an angry man. “Just look at me now. I am useless. I have nothing to show. President (Robert) Mugabe has completely forgotten us. We do not deserve this kind of treatment,” he told The Zimbabwean.

“Some top Zanu (PF) officials live in mansions, but I still live in a hut. While others drive 4x4s I use an old bicycle,” he said, adding that the $100 monthly pension he receives was woefully inadequate.

“There are so many true war heroes out there who are not happy with Mugabe and Zanu (PF). Some fake war veterans, who did not even participate in the struggle, are enjoying life and driving 4x4s while true heroes are languishing in a sea of poverty,” said an emotional Bangira, who survived the 1976 Rhodesian army attack on Chimoio military base in Mozambique.

“It was not easy. I fought and survived the Chimoio attack. I went to the war to liberate this country. A lot of blood was shed and many Zimbabweans died. But today it’s painful that we are neglected,” said Bangira, whose Chimurenga name was Buffalo Mugaradzakasungwa.

Nothing to cheer

“Look at me today, I am almost destitute. I do not have anything to show. I am extremely poor, but I truly liberated this country. We have been used by these cronies at Zanu (PF). There are a lot of true war veterans who are in my same predicament,” he added.

“They (Zanu PF) always talk about the Heroes’ holiday, I want to take this opportunity to tell the world that true war veterans will not celebrate this day because there is nothing to cheer about,” he added,” fumed Bangira.

“What surprises me is the fact that some influential people know me, but have ignored me. I have talked to Cde Tineyi Chigudu (Former Manicaland Governor) to take my case to the highest authorities, but nothing happened,” he said.

“It pains me because I fought for this country. We must be compensated fully. Yes, we were given the ZW$50,000 before but that was not enough considering how we suffered for this country,” he explained.

Full of crooks

He said he wanted to contest the past two elections in Mutare North constituency (2005 and 2008), but was denied the chance. “I was told that I do not qualify. They know I am popular because I tell the truth. What they have done to me and other fellow true war veterans is deceitful. I Iike Zanu (PF) but it is full of crooks,” he said.

He lamented the state of the economy, which he said was in tatters. “This is not what our true cadres died for. This is not what we fought for. This is not the Zimbabwe that we wanted. I do not have enough money to send my children to school. I do not have enough to feed my family. So what is the reason for me to say I liberated the country?” he said.

Bangira has challenged Mugabe to bring to the fore the trauma still haunting the war veterans years after the end of the war. “We bore the pain in a manner that only true patriots like the unsung heroes can manage. Unfortunately it is some people like us and other unsung true heroes of the liberation struggle that have been forgotten,” he said. Bangira believes that Mugabe is being given false information. “He is rewarding sell-outs masquerading as war veterans with land, Mercedes Benz cars, 4x4s and promoting them into the cabinet. Those people don’t love him at all,” said Buffalo.

He was born at Old Mutare now known as Hartzel. He did not complete his secondary education at Old Mutare Mission as he decided to join the liberation struggle in Mozambique in 1975. He did his military training at Tembwe Training Camp.

True champions

He was a member of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) forces. He also claims to have been a youth member of the National Democratic Party under the late Enos Chikowore and that he was detained at Gonakudzingwa.

He views Josiah Magama Tongogara and Rex Nhongo (Solomon Mujuru) as the true champions of the liberation struggle. After independence he was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) in 1980 and was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1982 at 61 infantry battalion. In 1987 he resigned from the army because of ill health caused by wounds he sustained during the war.

He survives on his farm in Odzi by running a bicycle repair business.

Asked to comment on his plight, the Zanu (PF) leadership in Manicaland dismissed Bangira as “mentally disturbed”.

Post published in: News
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